In this week's edition: the quality of Czech beer, "commercialisation" of Prague, bounced e-mail messages sent to Radio Prague. Listeners quoted: Lindley Becker, USA; Colin Rose, UK.

After a two-week break Mailbox is back with your letters and emails, questions and comments.

We have received warm letters such as this one from Lindley Becker from Florida, who wrote:

"In December I had the opportunity to visit Prague and fell in love with the city, the culture and the people. Once I returned home I found Radio Prague and have been listening every day since. It is my way of keeping "in touch" with my new city-love and I also enjoy hearing world news from a different perspective. Thank you!"

Thank you, too, Lindley. But we've also got this letter from Colin Rose from England criticising what our guests in the programme had to say.

"I have been coming to the Czech Republic for 18 years. Whilst it has been wonderful to witness all the positive change it is also a little depressing to notice other less edifying ones. The comments last December from Jan Vesely, chairman of the Czech Beer and Malt Association were depressing. I have tasted the steady decline in the standard of Czech beer. To state that because hordes of lager louts descend on Prague looking for a cheap pint shows that the beer is OK is foolish. The same hordes will stop immediately the prices move into line with the rest of Europe. 'Modernization' of the product may lead to consistency but is really only driven by profit margins. It is a very foolish route to take. In the end the international sales of Czech beer rely on it being seen as a premium product. CAMRA's warning was timely."

Mr Rose was also critical of what the head of the Czech tourist board, Rostislav Vondruska said in a recent interview with Radio Prague's Rob Cameron.

"You tried but seemed unable to get Rostislav Vondruska to confront the reality of the commercialization of Prague and the polishing away of its patina. Looking across the roofscape of Mala Strana is a fairly depressing sight these days. Squeezing the real estate in the attics and putting a mock veneer of cheap tile in an attempt to disguise it, does not work for long: Soon the valued tourists will work out that the image of magical Prague is after all just an image. Prague is becoming known as a destination with an image problem not dissimilar to certain areas of Spain which have blighted that country's reputation as an up market destination. Thankfully Prague is a greater place than the narrow circuit of tourist Prague and so much of the rest of the country is in vibrant good health. Even the beer, in pockets elsewhere, retains its quality and welcome!"

And Mr Rose included a postscript:

"P.S. Why do Czechs so often promote the minor charms of Martinu instead of the major talent of Janacek? - from outside the country it looks most perverse."

Well, that's certainly some food for thought. And thank you for the comments, Colin, they give us a valued insight into what our listeners and visitors of the Czech Republic feel about certain aspects of the country.

If you have strong opinions on anything you've heard in our programmes, don't hesitate to drop us a line. We always like to hear from you. The address is Radio Prague, English section, 12099 Prague 2, Czech Republic or English@radio.cz.

You may remember that in the last Mailbox programme two weeks ago, I talked to Vaclav Sigmund from Radio Prague's internet section about complaints from some listeners that their email messages to Radio Prague had been bounced.

Vaclav explained that the main reason for that was the fact that those messages had been sent from internet servers, mainly in Asia, which our filtering system recognises as senders of spam messages. But there is another important factor which may cause our filtering system to reject your email and that is if the text is written all in block letters. So please, to make sure your message gets to us at Radio Prague, try using a normal font and avoid writing in capital letters only. Once again we apologise for any inconvenience but you'll understand that we have to protect ourselves against the quantity of unsolicited email we get every day.


Before I say good bye to you for this week, I mustn't forget that you have only two days to answer Radio Prague's competition question for January, so I think email is the best way in this case. And the question is:

"One of the mayors of the US city of Chicago was of Czech origin. Born in Kladno, near Prague, he left for the United States as a child. He started working at a young age as a coal miner and gradually worked his way up to become Chicago's mayor. In his third year of office, in 1933, he was wounded in an assassination attempt on President Roosevelt and died of his injuries weeks later. He is buried at the Bohemian National Cemetery in Chicago. We'd like to know his name."

Please, send your answers by Monday January 31st to the usual address: Radio Prague, English Section, 12099, Prague 2 or email us at English@radio.cz. And in next week's Mailbox we'll announce the winner.